When I arrived at my condo I was tense. In one hand I had a package of brand new white plastic hangers. In the other hand I was clutching a two pack of pillows from Target. First things first, I knocked, just to be sure the guests were gone. They had been so adamant about not being there while I was addressing the myriad issues they had with the place. Issues that no other guest had ever complained about, of course. I unlocked the door and pushed it open with the tip of my toe, slowly. I was already planning my order of operations for getting out of there as quickly as possible. I would walk in, go straight to my walk-in closet and unlock it, grab new sheets and extra pillow cases for the new pillows, go quickly to the bedroom and hang up the new hangers (while leaving the packaging conspicuously in the trash can so they would know that I actually brought them BRAND NEW hangers), then change the sheets and get out of there. I was grateful at that moment that my additional set of sheets was a different color than the standard set. At least then they would know that I changed them without a doubt.
When the door finished swinging open, I couldn’t believe was I was seeing. I let out an audible gasp. There was…stuff. Everywhere. My condo looked like a Neiman Marcus got drunk with an Apple store and threw up all over the floor. After robbing a bank. There were high end leather handbags from Louis Vuitton and Chanel all over the floor along with unopened boxes of Apple products (iPads, iPhones, MacBooks), and even more disturbingly, cash. Lots of cash – everywhere. It was a minefield. I could barely see a visible path to the closet, let alone the bedroom.
What would you have done at this point? Turned right around and run away? Maybe. But I started explaining everything away to myself. Perhaps this is just how lazy, rich people are. Perhaps they maxed out their credit cards in my neighborhood (Likely this happens about every day in my neighborhood). Maybe they were in a rush to get out of here before I arrived. However, the cash strewn around absolutely baffled me. Even so, I rationalized everything, despite the feeling of dread in my stomach and overwhelming urge to puke. So I gingerly stepped inside and maneuvered my way around silk Theory blouses and sleek designer dresses. I was careful to not touch anything except the wood floors of my condo.
I added the extra pillows, changed the sheets, put the hangers in place, and got out of there as fast as I possibly could. I backtracked my way out without so much as nudging a single green bill on the floor. I didn’t want them to be able to accuse me of touching any of their stuff. I walked to my car and sat inside with the door locked to think about what had just happened.
The problem was, I didn’t know what had just happened. But it started to occur to me at that point that it probably wasn’t good. Or normal. Or the last issue I would have with these guests.
I messaged the guest through the app to let him know that I had completed his requests and that I was out of the condo (aka it’s safe to come back, weirdo!). He didn’t respond. I went back to my day and running my errands, all the while reminding myself constantly to calm down, try not to focus on his negativity, etc.
Just as I was starting to feel better, he started messaging me that I was keeping a cat in the condo (I do have a cat, as I mentioned before she would travel with me OF COURSE and not stay with any airbnb guests). He was making wild accusations – that I was keeping a cat locked in the closet (which is impossible because there is a huge gap between the closet door and the floor – probably a half a foot at least), that he thought he saw it, on and on. Honestly if he wanted to get into the closet he could have just pulled really hard. I locked it with the tiniest padlock that was more fit for a diary than even a school locker. The lock was there just as a message saying, “Hey, this is private space.” Not to actually deter anyone from entering, at least physically.
I attempted to calm him and reassure him that I do not keep my cat locked in the condo with no food or water with my airbnb guests. He would not be assuaged. I mentioned that perhaps we should bring airbnb support in to help us, since we seemed to be getting nowhere. That’s when the accusations really started to fly. He began messaging me the prices of the items I had seen on the floor – $4,000 handbags, priceless, actually because of their vintage status. I was in shock at this point. Was he setting me up? Then he started listing off items in my condo that he called “shit.” He said all of my belongings were shit, so he wouldn’t want any of them, but I sure would want his girlfriends’ things, wouldn’t I? I said I hadn’t touched any of their possessions. He sarcastically mentioned “Sure you didn’t.” And then went on to say that he wouldn’t want to damage any of my things or steal any of my things because it’s all “shit.” He accused me of wanting to go back and steal his girlfriends’ clothes, handbags, cash, and iPads. He said she was “terrified” i was going to steal her belongings.
This is the point at which I started crying, and I called airbnb support. They told me I was welcome to call the police if it would make me feel better (apparently that is their standard line, as I learned just recently when I had another extremely unpleasant airbnb incident). I told them my guest was being accusatory and completely unreasonable despite my continual efforts to meet his expectations. I asked them to please read the message log if they had access so that they could see exactly how polite I was to all of his wild accusations.
Meanwhile, my airbnb guest continued to harass me. At this point he said, “I’m a lawyer, and I can make this very bad for you.” His messages went on and on, and were each fairly lengthy. He seemed to be spending his entire trip determined to make my life miserable. I wondered – what did he want? To send me to jail? Insurance money for his stuff that I did not touch? To play Lawyer Power Trip? I didn’t understand, and I just wanted him and his girlfriend to leave.
I called airbnb in tears, and asked them to please help. They said they could cancel the reservation, but not much else. I said I didn’t want to message him anymore because he was being horrible, defamatory, and otherwise just plain rotten. I stopped responding to his messages at all, and ignored my airbnb app.
A few hours after he eventually supposedly left, I felt it was safe to sneak back to my condo and see what state he left it in. All of his things were gone, but he left me garbage in the middle of the floor and on the table tops. There was disgusting garbage from fast food which would have made me laugh under other circumstances, because…really? Fast food? But I wasn’t in a laughing mood at that point. I was just glad to have my condo back and glad he was (hopefully) out of my life. I found a few random things he had left behind, which I carefully documented and emailed information on to airbnb. They said I was free to reach out to him to arrange to mail them to him, which actually made me laugh out loud. I informed airbnb that under no circumstances was I going to be communicating with him again. I was happy to mail airbnb the items which they would be able to return to him. They said they could not do this, but they would let him know I found the items. (We’re talking a gross old t-shirt and a stray sock. But I wasn’t going to mess around.)
You might be wondering – what did airbnb do? Let me give you the short answer: absolutely nothing. What could they have done? Well, anything. They could have reached out to me to apologize, they could have let me know that they banned him from airbnb or at the very least closed that account. They could have sent me an email asking me if I was OK. A phone call? A letter? They could have done SOMETHING. But instead they had told me to call the police and essentially deal with it myself. I was left alone to see if these threats from my lawyer airbnb guest ever materialized. Amazing customer service, yep.
So as you can imagine, I cleaned up the trash as quickly as possible and disinfected my condo from top to bottom. It was hard to even sleep there for a few weeks. I felt violated by and disgusted by my fellow mankind. That was the most sad part of the entire event for me – I had grown to trust and appreciate that people in the world are generally good. That idea was shattered by this airbnb guest. I could not imagine having another guest. For me, airbnb was about sharing my life with someone while I wasn’t there – my most personal space, my entire home! And trusting that complete stranger to protect it and respect it as I do on a daily basis.
It took me months to sort this all out on my own. The most valuable thing I learned was to always trust my intuition. If I had only listened to the voice that told me he was a creep, then I never would have had to deal with any of this. It was difficult to face the idea that airbnb hasn’t brought together a community of 100% amazing people. I mean…imagine this, airbnb is based on a review system right? A lot like Amazon, except for people instead of products. However, I wasn’t even able to leave him a review. So no one will know this story is connected to his profile. Sad, right? How does that system work? It doesn’t; it’s broken. He can’t be run out of the proverbial town with the pitchfork. He never has to socially pay for what he did to me. He gets to remain unpunished, anonymous. Protected by airbnb. He’s able to go out and harass someone else just like he harassed me. How many people has he done that to by now?
If you’re an airbnb host, don’t make my mistake; always trust your intuition. If you’re anything like me you might feel a twinge of guilt for rejecting someone. But fight that feeling.